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"Simon Killer" is an odd, bleak and deeply unsettling film that I
simply could not get to grips with. It tells the story of a young
American neuroscience graduate, Simon (Brady Corbet). Simon leaves the
United States and goes to Paris in an attempt to get over the somewhat
traumatic break-up of a five-year relationship with his girlfriend
Michelle (a character who does not appear in the film). There is
something not quite right about Simon. He is a bit like Patricia
Highsmith's well-known anti-hero Tom Ripley: cold, unfeeling, amoral
and emotionally unintelligent. He is also a compulsive liar.
Soon after his arrival in the French capital (where he initially stays with a cousin of his - who is, in fact, not really a relation but a friend of the family), Simon goes into a sex club where he pays for sex with one of the resident prostitutes, Victoria (Mati Diop). As a result of that encounter, he develops a relationship with her and later moves into her small flat. Victoria opens up to Simon and tells him intimate details of her past, including the fact that she miscarried some time ago. Simon is less willing to disclose information about himself to Victoria. Indeed, one of the many problems with the film is that the viewer is given little or no hint as to what actually motivates Simon and why he frequently behaves so oddly. Part of that oddness is his attitude to women, whom he seems to view as nothing more than objects of sexual desire. At the same time, he attempts to blackmail some of Victoria's "customers" in order to finance his stay in Paris. He later meets another attractive young woman, whom he had bumped into earlier in his stay, and begins a brief relationship with her. This understandably upsets Victoria. Things move on from there.
"Simon Killer" is a very unpleasant film. It is full of graphic sex scenes, many of which are quite unnecessary in that they add little or nothing to plot or character development. In addition, Simon is a deeply unsympathetic character. It is left to the viewer to decide why he is like he is. There are hints that he has some sort of Oedipus complex or perhaps a personality disorder (or both). What is clear is that he is an extremely selfish and shallow person who lacks any sort of empathy for other people. Much of the plot has the feel of improvisation about it. And it's really not at all clear what the message of the film is. In addition to all that, I was simply not convinced by the relationship between Simon and Victoria, in particular why, of all her many "customers", she would choose him as someone with whom to have a serious relationship. Although the conclusion of the film is well done, much of what precedes it is ponderous and lethargic and, as a result, extremely boring. The soundtrack, however, is one of the best of any film that I have seen. But when all is said and done, "Simon Killer" is an unsatisfactory film that is difficult to recommend. 5/10
Within its first 5 minutes I could already sense that I was about to
watch a masterful movie. For this is a most brilliant study of, and
glimpse into, the life of a sociopath. At times, it is so 'fly on the
wall', and so brilliantly acted, that I almost had to remind myself
that this was fiction I was witnessing.
It's written and directed by Antonio Campos, who is admittedly not so well known as a screenwriter, having written only one other feature length movie back in 2008; A fact which is moreover, and to my belief, a tragedy for Campos - because he has most certainly proved himself with this movie, to be an exceptional screenwriter. Simon Killer is, in other words, extremely underrated. Nonetheless, as for its direction, production, acting, screenplay and musical score - all come together in an all too rare, & near perfect, unison.
But why is it underrated? Basically, people cannot and just won't 'like' this movie, precisely because sociopaths are nasty people who callously make the lives of everyone they contact, worse for knowing them. Accordingly, watching a movie about such a person, even one that is as interesting and accurate as Simon Killer, is not therefore a fun or enjoyable experience for any typical audience - at least in the sense that 'enjoyable' should bring a smile onto one's face. For this movie won't endear smiles at any point.
Whereas DeNero's studied psychopath, in Taxi Driver, occasionally brought a wry smile to one's face, and was popularly received as a bit of a misunderstood 'anti-hero', Brady Corbet's Simon is not only always engaging as a character study, but he's always, also, all too steely manipulating, and disgustingly self absorbed. Frankly, of the many movies I've seen, I can think of no other movie, before this, which so realistically portrays how a sociopath engages with other people who pass through his life. And, as such, I cannot recommend this movie highly enough, particularly for those of you, who are analytically minded enough, so as to appreciate its utter brilliance. Again, I'm not promising that anyone will, or could possibly 'like' this movie. Rather, I believe a minority of others will deeply appreciate its very excellence.
"Simon Killer" may the toughest film I've ever tried to categorize.
It's not a horror film, it's not a thriller, it's not a romance, and
it's not a drama. And yet, in another way, it *is* all of those. From
the very title of the movie to the closing scene, this film defies all
"Simon Killer" is the story of Simon, played brilliantly by Brady Corbet, who has just graduated from college and comes to Paris to get over a bad breakup. We never meet Michelle, his ex, but based on Simon's e-mails to her and her reply, it was not a happy breakup, and maybe even worse than that. While there, he meets a drop-dead gorgeous hooker (Mati Diop) and they start a relationship.
I could discuss more of the plot -- and there is definitely more, involving blackmail attempts and other events -- but really, it's irrelevant. The film basically invites us to watch Simon and what he does. And it's engrossing. And the question is, what IS Simon, really. He's not really a pleasant guy. Why is he doing what he's doing? Is he a pathological liar? Or just a confused kid telling small lies in a foreign land. Does he hate women and think they are only for sex? Or is it the opposite, and he gets deeply emotionally involved. "Simon Killer" is fascinating and potentially frustrating as it invites you to watch and yet refuses to give pat answers and instead, seems to raise more questions.
Film, like all art, is subjective, and I found "Simon Killer" absolutely riveting. You may find it disturbing and uncomfortable, but I think it's worth the ride.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
'Simon Killer' is about a young American who goes to Paris following the failure of his relationship with his girlfriend - the very heavy implication being the break-up was his fault. He quickly inveigles his way into the life of a young prostitute, before taking up with a classier girl. Quite how he manages to get so much feminine action is beyond me - grubby, and festooned with the facial scurf so many young men go in for nowadays, he's a sorry-looking article - he gives the impression he doesn't wipe properly, y'know? And that's before you get to his being really intense and creepy. Worth watching once, but I doubt I'll try to see it again.
Brady Corbet is Simon. Simon has just arrived in Paris, heart-broken
over a recent break-up and uncertain about his future. After having sex
with a prostitute he manipulates his way into a serious relationship
with her. A relationship that involves drugs, blackmail, betrayal and
The less you know the better this memorizing masterpiece will be to experience for the first time. This is one sick and brilliant portrait of a sociopath made up of beautiful moving pictures set to an epic soundtrack. Antonio Campos has nailed it.
Perfectly paced to place us in Simon's shoes, Simon Killer is horrifying eye and ear candy. It's slow and somewhat minimalistic but it's because of this that is seems all that more real. Therefore all that more frightening.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Walking in to the theater I had no preconception of what this film was
about. Other than that it was set in Paris. And boy did it surprise me.
From the get-go you could tell that it would be an exciting audiovisual
ride. And I'd say it held onto that feeling through out the entire
The initial picture of a desperate young man had me fooled that it was going to be a dreary sob story. Slowly, but surely it dawned on me how incredibly well both Campos, in his directing, and Corbet, in his acting, had done once I realized I could sense the awkwardness as he pushed himself into Noura's life. At this point, I was sold.
The story is a very compelling one, in its own, bizarre way, that the longer it progressed I could scarcely take my eyes off the screen. And as far as trying to fit this masterpiece into a definitive box? I feel like this is one of those movies that just doesn't fit perfectly into any category. The film lends from a wide array of genres, ranging from thrillers to drama and from horror to artsy soft-core and beyond.
I'd sincerely recommend giving this film a view if you're interested in top of the line acting, directing and cinematography, spiced with a hint of atypical story telling. Especially if you are ready to either enjoy or put aside the explicit content, which at times can be a little disturbing, to put it mildly.
"Superficial charm and average intelligence. Untruthfulness and insincerity. Poor judgment and failure to learn from experience." All the attributes of a psychopath are handled brilliantly by Antonio Campos and executed flawlessly by Brady Corbet. This film has been on my mind for a few days as I remember the edgy scenes with actors half off the screen and my wishing I could just nudge the camera a little bit to see what's going on... although it would not have mattered. The story here is powerful and tells a tale of a manipulative and mentally unbalanced character, but that's not really why I liked the film so much. What blew my mind is the visual treatment, the blasts of audio, the unforgiving sex and the feeling I was looking at an accident I could not turn away from. Lots of similarity to the films of Haneke and Dumont but taken to the next level with an uncompromising cellphone video sensitivity.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I was very impressed at the intelligence and subtlety of the direction
and the protagonist's portrayal in this film. I very quickly felt
queasy and uncomfortable in the right way with the story - one needs to
recognize that this is a larger canvas, a deeper psychological layout
and one needs to wait, step back to see the bigger picture. Very well
put together indeed, and hinges well on the authenticity of the
Recently graduated from college, ordinary American male, Simon is in France for reasons which are unclear, after a serious breakup which is unresolved for him. He appears ambivalent about his expectations for the place but possesses yearning for connection. The film follows his initially aimless wandering through overcast Paris but over the course of the film his behavior evinces troubling questions, creating a picture of complex and disquieting psychology.
I have to agree with the sentiments expressed by a few other IMDb reviewers - there is a problem which is troublesome for films of this nature. Who wants to spend so much "subtle" time with such an flavorless, watery and increasingly unpleasant person? It should be recognized that these qualities are exactly what the filmmakers are aiming at. Some personality types are parasites which require a host to feel content. However, that may be a flaw, in my opinion.
A realistic portrayal of everyday psychopathy can be presented from a revelatory and entertaining viewpoint casting new light into a previously hidden part of life. When it's presented in the dour, and faintly bland & vague way it's done here, it just feels like you're watching yourself, friends, family or co-workers in a way that feels less like an 'escape to the movies' and more like work. Good films make that work invisible or enjoyable. This film has very few pleasures to deliver. That too, is the perhaps filmmaker's point.
I may be over simplifying my point or not making a good one, but it certainly is a problem that many artistic statements have to contend with - don't make your audience regret the time they spend with your story. If your protagonist has a troubled mind, the audience has to occasionally relate to him/her. Make that experience MORE engaging than one's own life, not less. Again, that may have been the filmmaker's point.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I recently saw this movie, after eagerly anticipating it for a good
long while. Overall I found it so-so; whilst ranging from good to
brilliant in most every technical aspect, a singificant detractor was
the character of Simon. Simply put, I don't believe he is what he's
described to be. The synopsis, pre-release interviews and reviews talk
of a sociopath (which I appreciate is now an antiquated DSM term, but
it's the one they employ so I will employ it too), but it's clear the
term has been either misinterpreted or misused.
The film's eponymous 'killer' definitely has some sort of borderline or antisocial/dissocial personality disorder - his pathological lying and manipulating with no regard for others demonstrate this with crystal clarity - but to my knowledge, true sociopathy does not appear to be it. His obvious distress and pained, emotional reactions at two certain points (the part where he's discussing his ex with his mother via skype; and when he breaks down, crying for his mother, after leaving his fox pin on the left-for-dead Victoria/Noura) strike me as simply too human for a sociopath.
It's the very presence of such distress in itself that nullifies the term 'sociopath'. Longing for others, for comfort from and attachment to others, is something absent in sociopaths. Whilst they do feel certain emotions on a superficial level, and certainly can be given to acute displays of anger and aggression, sadness and need for others just does not feature. They are more than adept, however at feigning such emotions in order to manipulate others (just as Simon does), but they do not genuinely, deeply feel them, therefore would have no reason to exhibit them when alone in their most honest moments.
The term 'sociopath' has been wielded quite loosely in fiction for ages, but I would have thought intelligent writer-directors such as Antonio Campos, and actor-writers such as Brady Corbet, would be more circumspect. Hats off to them, they wrote and pulled off an interesting character who inspires the very repugnance he's designed to - that much is mission accomplished - but I do not believe he's a sociopath. And if they had simply described him simply as amoral or morally questionable, that would have sufficed; but as such, 'sociopath' is not and cannot be used as shorthand.
In conclusion, the film is definitely worth a watch, for the top notch performances and 'killer' soundtrack (pun not intended); but if you're looking for a character study of a sociopath, watch René Clémant's 'Purple Noon (Plein Soleil)' instead. In 'Simon Killer', the eponymous character exhibits certain sociopathic traits, and evidently falls somewhere in the spectrum of borderline or antisocial/dissocial personality disorders, but I would dispute whether he is a true sociopath; and as the film rests on the veracity of Simon as one, this is where it fails for me.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This is an interesting film directed by Antonio Campos about a young man from New York who has apparently just finished a degree in neuroscience (he turns out to be a liar, so this may not be true, and in the film's last line he says to a customs official that he studies French literature), and is spending a few weeks in Paris living in the apartment of a family friend. What starts out as a story about an American student in Paris about to start his tour around Europe gradually turns into something darker as Simon, the eponymous character, meets an attractive French prostitute in a hostess bar. Simon cunningly inveigles himself into her life and soon moves into her apartment. We are not yet sure whether Simon is just a slippery character or a full-blown grifter, but at this point the plot reminded me of Jim Thompson's novels so I was gratified to learn from one interview with Campos that Thompson was indeed one of the inspirations for the film. Simon then persuades Noura (the prostitute he met at the hostess bar) to blackmail her customers with his help. So far, this is a fairly common film noir plot, but this unusual movie has much more to offer. Brady Corbet's acting as Simon is very good, Antonio Campos employs interesting visual techniques and other innovative elements, and the movie has an outstanding soundtrack. Corbet does a good job of keeping us guessing about just who, and how sinister a character, Simon really is. Is he just a bright student who opportunistically turns to blackmail to finance his holiday in Paris, or is he a professional con man who is potentially violent and dangerous? The dark and sexual themes, stalking camera (hostile strangers lurk just around the corner in Pigalle or accost Simon as he tries to pick up Parisian girls on the street), and memorable pop music score, reminded me of Blue Velvet, and it had me wondering if Simon is closer to Jeffrey Beaumont or to Frank Booth. As the suspense builds and things become ever darker, I also began to compare the film to The Comfort of Strangers, another tale of sexual attraction, perversion, deception and violence on a holiday in a picturesque European city (a film that brought together Paul Schrader, Ian McEwan, Harold Pinter and Christopher Walken... what a team!) But I digress. Antonio Campos does some really interesting things visually in this film. For example, there are strange light effects both at the very beginning of the movie and again to separate different parts of the story, like section breaks (these are accompanied by haunting songs with lyrics such as "It takes a muscle to fall in love"). I was intrigued by these light effects and Campos explains in one interview that he tried to recreate the lights you see as you press against your closed eyes with your fingers. Campos created these effects by removing the lens from a certain type of camera and filming Christmas lights which thus left only the imprint of their colours. These light effects are particularly appropriate in the film as Simon's thesis work (if he wasn't lying) involved the connection between the brain and the eye. Other interesting aspects of the movie include the bilingual script and way language is used. Simon often pretends not to understand when another character says something in French, and uses this to his advantage in his deceptions and tricks. Simon also often communicates non-verbally by an odd assortment of grunts, whimpers and yelps. Campos says that Brady Corbet actually worked out a whole system for these sounds, one for "angry Simon," another for "sad Simon," another for "anxious Simon" and so on. If you like Jim Thompson, Blue Velvet and The Comfort of Strangers, Simon Killer just might be your cup of tea.
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